I have learned a lot over the years working in the field of grief, loss and trauma. One very important concept that research supports, is the idea that following a traumatic event, it is important to help people to focus on who came to help them. Being able to identify the helpers is an important ingredient in acquiring resiliency for both children and adults. Mr.Fred Rogers, television host of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, shared this important quote, 'When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”' Mr. Rogers' mom was very wise and taught her son well.
As we began to recover in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, which affected so many in our area, some in devastating ways, I was so touched and inspired by the many stories I heard first hand as well as from others in person, on Facebook, and on the news, about the many wonderful helpers during and after the storm. The stories were heartwarming to know that so many people were willing to help one another out in some way, even though many of the helpers were challenged themselves, physically, emotionally, financially, and/or spiritually as a result of the storm. Of course there were the heroic life saving rescues, but there were also smaller acts that may not have made the headlines, but were so uplifting and wonderful. There were neighbors who shared their generators via extension cords; neighbors who helped to cut down trees that had fallen on to another neighbor's home, friends who invited friends or acquaintances into their homes for a hot cup of coffee, a meal, a shower, to do laundry or even to sleep over, sometimes for several days. Some waited for hours in gas lines and brough along a gas can to share with a neighbor who was out of gas. Quite a few businesses opened up their doors as soon as they could, and were generous enough to serve as charging stations for people’s phones and computers as well as a place to warm up. Community centers opened up to serve as shelters, charging stations, places to go for ice, water, updates or just some comforting words.
Now in this season of Thanksgiving, I can’t think of a better time to thank those who were there for you, are there for you now, who have supported you or encouraged you along the way during difficult times in your own life.
This week, a good friend of mine was supporting someone she is close to who was about to undergo surgery. I sent a reassuring text to my friend and her reply made me smile. She told me that the young woman she was awaiting surgery with, let’s call her Annie, had ‘Team Annie” at her side. Immediately I remembered seeing Breaking Dawn Part 2 this past week, and how the manager of the theater was trying to get those of us waiting in line for over two hours, psyched up. He loudly asked, “Who here is Team Edward?” Many shouts. Then he asked, “Who here is Team Jacob?” More shouting. If you haven't seen the Twilight series just know that there are two leading handsome male actors who play Edward and Jacob, and most fans have decided by now whose team they are on.
After hearing my friend use the term, “Team Annie,” to refer to her friend's support system, I was struck at the importance of this concept. "Annie’s team" consisted of a few people close to her, who would be supporting her in different ways, following her surgery and through her recovery process.
The photo I have included is a picture of an amazing poster of my first cousin Christopher. He has been in Tampa General Hospital since Sep. 20 undergoing an ordeal that is too complex to share in this blog. He is only 50 and a dad of two young boys and has an amazing wife, Carmen, who had been advocating for him every step of the journey and is by his side constantly. She has learned about more medical terms, procedures, and medications than she ever cared to know. She has been amazing. However, she alone cannot make up “Team Christopher”, as she would have burned out and gotten sick herself. It is very important to enlist others to serve on a support team. Over the past two months, Carmen generously shared daily updates about Chris's progress on Facebook, which allowed so many of us to be able to share in their difficult but amazing journey. Many members of “Team Christopher” have been able to show support, provide encouragement, share a song or prayer and stay involved even from miles away through texts, FB posts, phone calls, letters and things such as this poster. The poster was created by many of Chris’ friends and colleagues with his photo made up of hundreds of tiny photos of people who love him and are cheering for his recovery. This poster hangs on the wall in his hospital room for him and his family to see daily. I am happy to share that Chris and his “Team Christopher” poster are both finally going home on Friday, to rehabilitate in the comfort of his own home with his loving family by his side and with the continued support of his team.
So who is on your team? Who are those people who cheer you on or support you emotionally, physically, mentally and/or spiritually? Who do you turn to when you’re faced with some of life’s toughest challenges? Make a list of those who consider to be on your team. Call it Team ______ (fill in your name). You don’t need to have hundreds as my cousin Chris may have. You simply need 3 or 4 so that no one person gets burned out. Some may also include their faith on their team, their pet, and even a beloved deceased friend or relative who once provided much encouragement, support or strength. Get creative but do think about your team. A good way to meet potential team members is to volunteer. Volunteer in your local community or go to volunteermatch.org and find a way to volunteer a bit of your time and energy to something you believe in. You will meet others, help someone else, gain a sense of purpose and meaning and it can help you to feel less overwhelmed by your own circumstances. There is also a local crisis hot-line called Contact We Care that anyone can call who may be in crisis or if they simply need someone to listen. That number is 908-232-2880. They are also always looking for people to volunteer to operate the hot-line.
Always remember to thank your team. Let them each know how much you appreciate them and are grateful for them being on your team. It can be as simple as writing a note, telling them in person, making a phone call, or sending an email or text. Maybe ask them who is on their team. Teaching this concept to children and teens is also very important. Finally, whose teams are you on? Who might identify you as one of their supporters? It is as important to be on someone’s team as it is to have a team of your own. Teams help us not feel so alone, help us to feel less overwhelmed with life circumstances and also serve as a wonderful way to connect with others which is also another important ingredient in resiliency.
“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”
~ Cynthia Ozick
Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving and thanks to those of who have been and continue to be on Team Lisa. I appreciate you all so very much.
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